Quick Change: Inside the Groundbreaking Design Studio Open and How They Have Heeded China's Call - Arts & Culture

In A Radical Vision by Open: Reinventing Cultural Architecture, Catherine Shaw highlights the response of Beijing-based firm OPEN toward’s the country’s shifting cultural landscape

A dynamic and quickly-changing landscape like China is always in flux: hence there are always new projects cropping up that mark a new era for the country’s architectural vernacular.

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In Catherine Shaw’s A Radical Vision by Open: Reinventing Cultural Architecture, Beijing-based studio Open is profiled as a group of groundbreakers at the forefront of reinventing and responding to China’s complex present architectural needs.

When they established their New York studio in 2006, Open’s co-founders Li Hu and Huang Wenjing move away from the usual Western concerns about culture and design.

Instead they based each new project on the needs and desires of people living in the area, no matter the varied terrain and weather. The focus is not merely on how the architecture looks, but how it works: from a modern art gallery under a dune to a sculptural open-air theater near the Great Wall, each idea, plan, and subsequent creation is thoroughly examined and thought-out.

 “Open is one of the leading protagonists in this shift toward an architecture that responds more profoundly to China’s needs, circumstances, and possibilities,” writes Aric Chen, General and Artistic Director of Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam, Netherlands, in the foreword. 

“Their work,” Chen continues, “like the museums and hybrid theatre-library profiled in this book, exemplifies the notion that at its most consequential, built form is the reification of context in all senses: social, cultural, and systemic, as well as physical, urban, and formal.”

According to the studio, what they strive to do is create closer connections between ourselves and the natural world through architecture. The founders believe in innovation only if it can improve people’s lives and the environment and if done through the simplest solutions.

The book stands at 224 pages, with 280 color illustrations. Each project is furnished with analysis and contextual expertise, with current and archival material, like photographs, plans, drawings, and exploratory sketches.

Quick Change Architecture: Inside OPEN
A RADICAL VISION BY OPEN: REINVENTING CULTURAL ARCHITECTURE: © A Radical Vision by OPEN: Reinventing Cultural Architecture, Rizzoli New  York, 2022. Available here on April 12, 2022

The reader is granted an inside look into contemporary architecture, place-making, and knowledge on sources of information, their areas of difficulty, methods of construction, and how each novel project responds to the country’s distinctive conditions.

Also included is a conversation between Martino Stierli, the Philip Johnson chief curator of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, and Huang Wenjing and Li Hu, moderated by Catherine Shaw. 

Banner: The Chapel of Sound, Beijing / Photo from @open.architecture on IG

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